Visit the Past
By Stacy Milbouer and Tom Long / Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
There’s something special about an old-fashioned Christmas. Forget the blinking lights, the electronic music, the mega malls and the animatronic reindeer, just genuine sentiment, family and friends.
Fiddleheads have options for the gift of experience or memory making. Let us offer just a few.
There will be chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost will likely be nipping at noses Dec. 2 at the annual Homestead Holiday celebration at the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth.
“It’s pretty low-key,” said Dawn Gilpatrick, director of marketing at the museum. But isn’t that just what we’re looking for?
For the Homestead Holiday, the grounds will be decorated and there will be demonstrations of 19th-century open hearth cookery. There will be tractor-drawn wagon rides, and visitors may help make Christmas cookies, roast chestnuts and sample shrub – a vinegar or fruit juice-based beverage that has warmed the cockles of more than a few of our ancestors before refrigeration became readily available.
The museum’s store will be open for the event, for non-mall, handcrafted gift shopping.
The Remicks settled in Tamworth more than 200 years ago, and six generations of the family worked the 200-acre farm. The last two generations of the family were country doctors, Dr. Edwin Remick and Dr. Edwin Crafts Remick. Together, they provided nearly a century of continuous medical care to the residents of Tamworth and the surrounding towns. Before his death in 1993, Dr. Edwin Crafts Remick created a foundation to preserve the family homestead, farm and history of the country doctors in a way that the public could learn from and enjoy.
The farm features several buildings, including the Captain Enoch Remick House, a federal and Greek revival structure with antique furnishings and an antique toy collection. The original medical office and medicine room used by both doctors is preserved on the first floor. There is also artwork on the walls by itinerant artist John Avery.
The farm’s other buildings include a cattle barn, milk house, maple sugar house, stable and a barn. The spread is still a working farm. You may visit the barn and meet the cows, chickens, sheep and even a miniature horse named Sadie.
Admission to the event is $5, children four and under free.
For information, visit remickmuseum.org.
A Little Dickens
Who doesn’t love “A Christmas Carol” in all its iterations from the Muppets to the musical? But what if Dickens himself (or the next best thing) were to tell you the story with all its characters coming to life through gestures, accents and nuance?
That’s what’s happening at Nashua Community College Nov. 29 when Gerald Charles Dickens, a British actor and great, great grandson of the iconic author, will perform his famous ancestor’s holiday masterpiece dressed in appropriate Victorian garb – nonstop from beginning to end, all by himself.
Using his own adaptation of his great, great grandfather’s classic Christmas tale, Dickens plays more than 30 characters using his vocal and physical talents to bring each scene vividly to life. His performance of “A Christmas Carol” has received standing ovations all over the world since he started the one-man show in his native England, 24 years ago.
We Fiddleheads have attended this virtuoso performance nearly every year since Fortin Gage Flowers & Gifts started presenting it nearly a decade ago and have always joined in those ovations. It has become the best gift we give one another and to family and friends.
And in the spirit of the story, Fortin Gage donates a portion of ticket sales to two local nonprofits, the Front Door Agency and the Salvation Army, to buy holiday gifts for underprivileged local children. Attendees are also able to bring an unwrapped gift to the performances to be delivered to the two agencies and distributed to local families.
If you’re as big a fan of Dickens as we are, you might also want to catch Dickens’ daytime performance, “A Child’s Journey with Dickens,” based on the story written by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggins, author of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.” The true story is based on a 12- year-old girl’s memory of her chance meeting with her literary hero on a train journey from Portland, Maine to Boston.
“A Child’s Journey with Dickens” will be performed at the Nashua Senior Center Nov. 29, starting at 12:30. Tickets are $15. Tickets for the 7 p.m. performance of “A Christmas Carol” at Nashua Community College are $35 for orchestra seats, and $25 for stadium seating.
After each performance Dickens has book signings. A signed version of “A Christmas Carol” by the author’s great, great grandson. Not a bad gift for the book lovers in your life.
With its whitewashed buildings, simple philosophy and unpretentious 19th-century earnestness, any visit to Canterbury Shaker Village is an otherworldly experience and the “Christmas at Canterbury” celebrations at the museum Dec. 9 and 16, from 3 to 8 p.m., are particularly special.
“The village itself is a magical place, but with all the activities and decorations it makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time,” village spokeswoman Nicole Warren said recently.
Christmas at Canterbury is a chance to experience the 19th-century Christmas the Shakers might have enjoyed. The windows of the large dwelling house, creamery and outbuildings will be lit with candles and decorated with historic holiday finery.
Children may visit with Santa, whose costume includes a freedman’s cap with embroidered holly, and his manner evokes the period rather than department store kitsch.
Andrew Pinard will recreate a 19th-century magic act. “He performs in the character of Robert Harrington, a real 19th-century magician,” said Warren.
There will be a working toy train display and music, as well as acoustic fiddle music the first week by Audrey Budington and the second week by Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio. Children may decorate cookies and make Christmas crackers and cards.
The creamery will be open for snacks, and at about 7:30 p.m. the celebration will wrap up with a procession led by the Canterbury Singers, who will perform seasonal songs and lead those assembled to the village Christmas tree for a lighting ceremony.
The Shakers were founded in England in the 18th century when dissidents from various religions began following Mother Ann Lee and started a group called the United Society of Believers, which later became known as the Shaking Quakers – or Shakers – because of their use of ecstatic dance in worship.
Canterbury Shaker Village was established in 1792 when followers formed their seventh community. The village has operated exclusively as a museum since 1992 when the last Shaker sister in residence, Ethel Hudson, died.
At its height in the 1850s, 300 people lived and worked in more than 100 buildings on 3,000 acres at the village. Today, the village contains the only intact, first-generation Meetinghouse, built in 1792, and Dwelling House, built in 1793, in their original locations.
According to founder Mother Ann Lee, the Shakers devoted their “hands to work and hearts to God.” Their simple, utilitarian furniture is prized by collectors. The Shakers Museum Store, open during the event, allows visitors to do some holiday shopping with that spirit in mind.
Tickets: $18 adults, $8 children ages 6-17, under 5 free, members half-price. For information, visit shakers.org.
Holiday Strolls & Parades